HST130 – Joseph Smarro – Veteran and First Responder Mental Health

About Today’s Guest:

Joseph Smarro was born in Virginia and raised in New York. He graduated from Hadley-Luzerne High School in 2000. Immediately after graduating, he joined the United States Marine Corps, where he served honorably for four years with the 1st Battalion 4th Marines, Camp Pendleton, California. Joseph served in Operation Enduring Freedom as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom, and received his combat action ribbon with a Distinction for Valor. During his time in Iraq, Smarro was selected to provide security for two Vietnam Era veterans (Bing West and Major General Ray L. Smith), authors of The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the United States Marines. Upon his honorable discharge, Joseph moved to San Antonio, Texas in 2004.

Smarro joined the San Antonio Police Department in October of 2005, and was initially assigned to the south patrol service area, where he worked for five years. Joseph then became one of the original members of SAPD’s Mental Health Unit, and helped make it one of the most recognized police programs in the nation. During his nine years with the Mental Health Unit, he has dealt with some of the most severe cases of individuals suffering from mental health crises, saving countless lives. He has been featured on ABC Nightline, Brave New Films documentary, and various other media outlets. He will be headlining an upcoming full-feature documentary, to be released in 2019.

During his time with the Mental Health Unit, Joseph earned his Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Justice from Wayland Baptist University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and earned the Hector Garza Award for being the top graduate in Criminal Justice. Currently, Joseph is working toward his Master’s in Business Administration. He was accepted into an Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans course at Texas A&M May’s Business School in 2016, where he was revered as the most-outstanding visionary of the group. In 2018 he was accepted into a similar entrepreneur boot camp program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he won the “Best Pitch” award for having an established business.

In this Episode, you will learn:

  • Military response to wellness and transition from the service to the first responder community
  • Role of the Crisis Intervention Team shifting from intervening with the community to intervening with peers
  • Joseph’s background
  • Developing awareness in others that it’s okay to not be okay…it’s not okay to stay that way
  • Meeting people where they are rather than where we want them to be
  • Importance of crisis intervention training for all first responders
  • Law Enforcement Officers exposure to suicide and violent death is 3:1 ratio
  • Role of middle management in mental health and wellness
  • Ernie and Joe the Documentary

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Solution Point Plus Web Site

Joe’s Ted Talk:

Give An Hour and Campaign to Change Direction on Social Media:

Joseph on LinkedIn


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Duane France
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Duane K. L. France is a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a mental health counselor practicing in the state of Colorado. Do you want to join the conversation regarding veteran mental health? Share, like, and comment. Read Duane's previous posts and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep the conversation about #veteranmentalhealth going.